Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Truth Hurts

Our lives have seen a lot of changes the past month and a half.  With the loss of our parents, we have been forced to look into our futures with a new "normal."  College, weddings, our first homes, and having kids all take on a new light...well, most days it's still a shadow.  Or a snap shot with two very key figures cut right out of the center.  My heart still aches at these new images, and I'm sure it will for a very long time.  But that's all a ways off, and right now I have more immediate things to adjust to.

With the end of my senior year comes a lot of awesome opportunities and events, but each now comes with mixed emotions...Tomorrow night is the National Honor Society banquet in which seniors honor their parents...good practice for graduation, I suppose.  And then there's the choir trip to New York City!  I'm sure there will be pics from that one :)  And next comes prom!! to which I have a wonderful date and group of friends to share the evening with.    ...All wonderful, all events I wish I could share with Mom and Dad. 

If you're reading this, I assume it's because you want to know how we're really doing.  So here it is:  we really miss Mom and Dad.  We still laugh and enjoy life as much as possible, but right around the corner sorrow often lurks.  Today was one of those days I wanted to spill my guts out to Mom...about what exactly? I'm not sure.  But she would have listened as I sat on the kitchen counter and told her about life. That I know.  And if I had ended up crying even with the stress of Mom and Dad's passing being out of the picture...Dad would have come through the door and given me a big strong hug. kissed the top of my head. and even though the craziness of this time of year would have still been there, they would have made it all okay again. at least for a little while.  And I miss that.  A lot.

I miss seeing Mumsey's goofy side--the side she reserved for a lucky few while she was making dinner for us.  :)  Her gentle spirit and the patient wisdom that came with it. 

I miss Pops.  Being able to leave sticky notes on his computer at church. and finding them in random desk drawers years later.  The crazy adventures we had floating down rivers and picking up dog kennels on a Saturday. 

 Their love and security.  I miss knowing they'd be there for me no matter what.

I guess even though they're not physically here, they will never leave me.  The lessons and values they have instilled in me will last a lifetime.  I know what a good marriage looks like. I know the importance of an apology.  I know what it is to be human and yet strive every day to look more like my Creator.  And we have been left in very capable hands. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our New Beginning

My goodness life is crazy.  It's been well over a month now, and some days I feel so much less put together now than I did the day of the accident.  We've found our first four weeks each had a personality of their own. 

For those of you who've been where we're at, trying to figure out how to put life back together when every piece seems to have shattered and flown to a different, dusty corner, I hear the journey is much the same for us all.  I guess we'll see if that rings true or not. 

Week 1:  Life was a big. fat. blur. 
A crazy haze of family and friends, in and out of the house. 
Enough food to start our own soup kitchen. 
Us sisters camping out together...cuz sleeping alone? not gunna happen. 
A basketball game to attend in which our wrestlers were honored, t-shirts were worn in honor of Mom and Dad, and my little second graders had a bake sale for our family, along with other donations. 
And of course, the visitations and funeral.

Week 2:  Reality had not yet set in.
Our aunt and my dad's parents stayed with us. 
We went about our lives.
School continued.
And I went on a college visit to Liberty University with my dear cousin, Carrie! :)

(check out our facebook pages for more details on this awesome trip!! :) )

Week 3:  Reality hit.
The house got quiet.
Every minute we were there alone, it felt like Mom and Dad should come walking through the door at any moment.
Life was hard.
The world around us went on while we were stuck with our new reality.

Week 4:  Our new, temporary "normal" set in. 
For a few days, God gave us a little break.
For whatever reason, life was a bit better. 
The cloud was not as thick, and we were able to breath.
And then reality would hit. 
Tears would stream all over again, and for a while our hearts would be left broken.
The ups and downs came unexpectedly.

And they still do.  I'm not really sure what "normal" is, but we cry when we need to.  And thank the good Lord for giving us moments of laughter!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Their Legacy

(The following is a long post.  It was hard to write, and may not be fun to read, so bear with me.  If you just want the happy stuff, skip to the paragraph right before the photo.)

On February 4, 2012, life changed dramatically for this family.  The day started out normal.  Brittany was at work. Jordan was attending Acquire the Fire--a Christian youth rally.  Chase was at his wrestling tournament.  And Mick and Julie got in the car with Nicole to go watch Chase wrestle. 

It was snowing that morning, and the roads were slick.  A little too slick.  They drove on, discussing the church and family like they always did.  Laughter was shared, and everything was normal. Except for the roads.  As the three came over a hill, they hit a patch of ice I suppose, the car spun, and they went into the ditch.  Some accounts say the car flipped, but I can't be sure.  I don't remember.  ...In case you hadn't figured it out, I am the same Nicole listed as a daughter of Mick and Julie in the previous post. 

I do remember the prayer of my mother,  "Lord, help us."  I echoed her prayer, and blacked out. When I came to, things were a bit foggy, but I remember very clearly things I simply will not share with you all.  I slid myself up over the seat, onto the trunk of the car.  The back windshield was gone.  By then, some people had arrived on the scene.  They carried my up the ditch, and I sat in a stranger's truck and she held me and prayed with me as I sobbed over and over again, "God, they have to be ok.  Make them be ok!!"  Deep down, I knew they weren't.
Mom and I were taken separately to the hospital.  I was held in the emergency room for several hours while they made sure I was ok.  I was.  I came out with a minor concussion, a few bruises and scrapes, and a bit of whiplash the next day.  Other than that, I was fine.  But Mom and Dad were not.  After lying in the ER for a while, my mom's sister, Beth, came in a had to break the news.  Dad had not made it.  We cried as she told me they were still working on Mom, but the injuries she had sustained did not look good. 

After a bit, Brittany and Chase came in to see me.  We cried again as we held each other, aware and yet completely naive about the situation that would soon be our reality.  Jordan was still in Minneapolis, but was driven home and was there later that night. 

By the time they said I was free to go, we knew Mom would not make it.  She was on life support, and we had one last chance to say, "Goodbye."  But as Dad had said so many times, "For Christians it's never, 'Goodbye.'  It's just, 'See ya later.'"  So, I walked into Mom's room, held her hand one last time, and told her I'd see her in the morning as I had every night before bed for as long as I can remember. 

I was released that night and came down to the waiting room to find a good handful of people there to give us hugs and support.  Thus began our week of people in and out of the house.  Hugs.  Lots and lots of hugs and prayers!! ...Enough hugs to give my poor chin, which happens to be a bit lower than most, carpet burn!  But I didn't mind.  Each hug was a reminder of the love and peace God was surrounding us with.  There were tears of course.  And wanting to cry, only to find the well was all dried up and our minds too exhausted to grasp everything and need to cry. 

Because Mom and Dad knew so many people, we had two visitation nights.  People came from all over.  Even from Ohio where Mom and Dad were first youth pastors.  The funeral was held in the high school gym, for the church simply was not big enough.  And that building, that group of people, was as much a part of their ministry as the church had been. 

On that day, exactly one week after their death, we truly celebrated their life.  Yes, for the first time we fell apart in front of everyone, but we also worshiped our Creator along with nearly 2,000 community members.  My uncle gave the "sermon" and reminded each person that every single thing Mom and Dad did was so that they could know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  He reminded them that not one person was at the funeral by accident.  They were there because God wanted them to be.  And as he invited people to accept Jesus Christ and His forgiveness, literally hundreds of people stood to their feet.  Students and teachers, parents and children, alike. 

In that moment, we saw why it was Mom and Dad's time to leave us and be Home.  They had done their job.  And they had done it well. 

"Mick and Julie went on the best date night of their lives. They thought they were only going to wrestling sectionals. How awesome to walk into paradise with your best friend! God is good."  This was sent to me by one of their good friends, and how true it is!!  So, while our hearts still ache, I believe Mom and Dad got the happiest of "happily ever afters," and in that, I find comfort. 

And I have no doubt they stood before the throne of the Most High and heard, "Well done, My good and faithful servants."

The Middle

After being married on what I hear was a miserably hot day, Mick and Julie officially began their lives together.  From the very beginning, the foundation of their marriage was built not on trying to please themselves or their families, trying to get ahead in careers and money, or even on putting the other first.  They knew their only hope in making their marriage last and be a blessing was to follow the Lord.  To seek and follow His plan for them. Every day. Every moment. 

Time was spent learning how to mesh two very different families.  Adjusting to the other's way of life. 

Making the choice to love one another daily.  Mick always said, "Love is a choice, not a feeling." Yes, she drove him crazy from time to time, and yes, he did the unthinkable of making her cry on occasion, but they were learning, and the Lord remained their focus.  His dreams were big, and she was the most supportive wife on the planet! So, she followed him to Ohio to be youth pastors, Iowa to train bird dogs and hunt pheasants, Maryland to create jewelry boxes and chairs, and finally back to Iowa where he would settle down and pastor a church in the small town of Kalona. 

Oh ya! ...A couple small, but rather significant facts I left out.  In that time, they also began adding to their family.  On the first move to Iowa, they had a beautiful baby girl named Brittany.  She was her daddy's little girl, with her mother's nurturing spirit and the attitude of a first-born. 

Next, while living in Maryland, was another girl, Nicole.  She was inquisitive and loved being outdoors with her father, but her mother's love for puzzles and word games came right along with the package. 

Once back in Iowa, they had a boy, entirely his father.  He grew to love hunting and hate trying to get his brain to work the way society thought it should.  Making people people laugh fueled him, and everyone wondered how he could possibly get away with as much as he did. 

Finally, there were 6, another girl completing their precious family.  She grew up under her brother's wing...or shall we say hammer?  Her grandmother's fiery spirit was evident, and her whit undeniable.  Her laughter often filled the house, and although she wouldn't admit it, her mind was as bright as the other three kids' put together. 

The children had their squabbles, but they loved one another, and each had a special bond with both their parents.  Mick was adventurous and loved treating the kids, while Julie was practical, but the best listening ear in the world!  They were both generous with their time and resources.  They were involved in everything from youth group to bible school to coaching to being on prom committee and serving as "seminar parents." 

There wasn't a lot of extra money floating around, but for good reason.  It was invested in a home not only for the 6 in the immediate family, but for everyone in the community.  Every Sunday evening, the house would fill with teenagers in the youth group.  Drinks spilled, food was dropped onto the carpet, and a few butts went through the drywall in the regular game of basketball, but they didn't really care. "A wall can be replaced much easier than a bone. We're just glad you're here having fun."  Mick had plenty of opportunities to pull out this line over the years. 

Their home was open because their minds were--to whatever situation a kid was coming from.  Their pantry was filled because their hearts were--with an Agape love that couldn't bear the thought of even one of these precious children missing out on the Lord and His salvation.  The adults in the community would say the same.  Every life they touched was marked with the finger print of God.  They knew that to love and serve Him instead of themselves was to have life to the fullest.  And they knew that this earth was not their home.